What is the best kind of tea, from masala chai to English breakfast?

Three journalists from 'The National' try out various versions and argue about which is the best brew

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Everybody loves a humble cup of tea.

But that mutual affection can turn divisive when comparisons are made between regional blends and the personal ways they are prepared.

This is down to tea’s cherished status as a cultural staple in many parts of the world and a conduit for intimate conversations and family gatherings at home.

Therefore, it is no surprise that debate was lively when three The National journalists — Farah Andrews, Aarti Jhurani and Saeed Saeed (me) — met to taste-test each other's favourite brew ahead of International Tea Day on May 21.

How do you take your tea; black, green, oolong or white? Unsplash

Some brews, as my colleagues discovered, are not for the faint-hearted.

This is the disclaimer I offer when pouring my North African inspired concoction — an uncompromising red tea consisting of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon — to my colleagues.

I explain that it is just the way I like it: thick, a little harsh and akin to a “punch in the face,” upon first sip each morning.

Aarti tries her best to be polite.

"As much as I love all kinds of tea, I like mine with a bit of sugar in it," she says. "You can taste the tea but you also want it to be palatable and delicious."

Aarti contrasts her version of Indian masala chai tea — made from ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and peppercorns with milk — as “a gentle hug to wake your system up," each morning.

Farah is an immediate fan.

"This is a cosy cup," she says. "It is classic; it is fragrant, it is delicious."

I do concede Aarti’s brew is "very huggable."

Farah is up next with a classic gently brewed English tea with milk and served from a teapot.

After a few sips of this ultralight blend, I do wonder if English tea is more about tradition than taste.

Aarti is more withering about the lack of flavour: "Sorry, I don't want to offend anybody but I wouldn't drink this. I do like my tea a bit thicker."

The tea taste test is part of a series of spirited conversations on the culinary and cultural value of dishes and treats the region holds near and dear.

Updated: May 20, 2022, 10:00 AM
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